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Glenbuchat Heritage

4 Kilns Part 4  New Holdings
The Glenbuchat Image Library
4 Kilns Part 4 New Holdings

Pictures above
1. Population figures for Upper Donside
2. Squatter at Nochtyside and Rob McPherson at the ‘Hairst’.
3. Size of Glenbuchat Holdings 1864
4. Upperton Field Plan 1864

Click for the Introduction page

New Holdings

The amalgamation and redistribution of the communally worked land of the old clachans into single tenanted small farms and crofts resulted in evicted sub-tenants and joint-tenants, left without access to land and for whom there was no place, being forced to leave the area and move to towns and cities, or into emigration. The minister of Glenbuchat reported in 1843:

‘About 10 years ago, we had a good deal of emigration from our parish - twenty-two persons went to Canada, who are doing well now.’

(Emigrants of course, whether reluctant or willing, took their skills with them. From Wellington County, Ontario, Canada there is a report of settlers from Strathdon building a limekiln on their property:

‘George Beattie and Margaret Grassick pledged marital vows at Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on July 13, 1835 and almost immediately embarked on their honeymoon aboard a three-masted sailing vessel bound for Canada. Upon their arrival at the port of Hamilton, they drove by ox-cart past Guelp, then only a hamlet of a few houses, to their future home, Lot 6 on the 8th concession, which they purchased for $2.50 an acre.
Tile floor of the valley that angled through the farm, which they named Greenbank, contained on abundance of limestone rack, and provided George Beattie with a good reason for constructing a lime-kiln near the creek. Many stone buildings in the district were erected with lime manufactured in this furnace.’

Exclusion of displaced people from Glenbuchat appears to have been a gradual process. There is no evidence of mass evictions by Fife estates, as infamously happened on Lord Fife's Mar estate on Upper Deeside in the 1840s, when the inhabitants of nine clachans in Glen Ey were cleared from the land to make way for sheep, Glenbuchat’s population figures continued to show an increase over the decades of the early to mid-19th century, until the effects of the agricultural depression set in around 1870s, after which time people voluntarily (although perhaps reluctantly) left the area in large numbers (picture l).

The Fife lairds apparently felt an obligation to some of the occupants of the old clachans, and provision was made for them in the ‘new order’. Parts of the lands of Upperton were laid out in small portions (termed lotting) to provide some of the displaced people with a piece of ground to cultivate, (picture 4). Some of the ejected folk were able to remain in the area by applying to the laird for an ‘improving lease’. A successful applicant was allocated a piece of hillside to establish a croft, usually rent-free at first, but as the holding became viable a rent was set. These ‘colonising crofters' pushing out the frontiers of cultivation had the advantage to the laird of increasing the acreage of his estate under cultivation and his rent roll, at minimal or no outlay to himself.

A plentiful and cheap source of lime was essential for the mammoth task of breaking-in this waste ground. An early example of a petition for an improving lease in Glenbuchat comes from the Duff House papers:

John Macintosh to Lord Fife, 21st ]uly 1766:
‘My Lord, I have taken noties of a pice of ground in the head of Glenbucket which l think my Lord would be a good improvement and if your lordship please to give me asistment to improve l will make a possession of it to pay your lordship rent in o short time and it is of no bennifit to your lordship as it is. My Lord the articales upon which l am willing to accept of the ground is this. Article the first l hope your Lordship will give me seven years of it flee and at the end of that time l will pay your lordship 20 pounds Scots yearly to the end of nineteen (years) and at the end of nineteen l hope it will be worth it double. Article the second l hope your lordship will give wood for boulding of houses - and l hope you will give orders to your (other) tenants to labour as much yearly as 1 am able to lime and doung (dung). My lord l would wish to be as little expense to you in this affair as possible.’

William Rose. Factor of Fife Estates to john Forbes of lnverernan, Factor of Glenbuchat Estate, 30th July 1766:

‘Mr Patrick Duff (tenant of the Mains of Glenbuchat - see appendix 2) recommends the bearer the petitioner; and the Earl of Fife is desirous therefore to encourage him and is to have it under consideration to accommodate him against his Lordship going to Glenbucket in the meantime my lord orders you to make report to him of the condition of the improvement he mentions and desires you inspect the place that you may be the better prepared and the more fitt to speak there upon when he sees you.’

Hunger for new land to bring into cultivation from waste ground, forced people higher up the glen sides to more inaccessible areas. The Deochry crofting community was first established in the early 19th century on the marches of Glenbuchat and Newe Estates, either side of the Deochry Burn on the shoulder of Ben Newe at an elevation of over 1200ft (380 metres), four or five holdings of a few acres each were carved out from moorland –Eastertown, Midtown, Westertown and Braeside. A rhyme from the mid-19th century, still recited today, gives an impression of the character of this ‘throng and its isolation from the main community lower down the Glen:
‘Elder Begg and Bellman Beattie,
Scot Stewart and skirlin Eppie,
Beardie fierce and Robin strong,
And that completes the Deochry' throng..

The investment of so much labour in 'riving out’ a new croft from waste ground, generated a fierce attachment to their hard won land. ‘Beardie fierce and Robin strong’ - Rob McPherson’ (picture 2) was an independent character who supplemented his living by farm labouring and as gravedigger. Local memory tells of the time when the Laird of Glenbuchat, embarrassed by the poor conditions one of his tenants was living under, offered him a ‘more commodious croft lower down the Glen. Rob replied that he was quite content to stay where he was. Thereafter his modest, 2 roomed, heather-thatched dwelling and small plot of land {where he and his wife Jean Beattie raised nine children - 1891 census) was known in the locality as ‘Contentment Hall’.

A few of the displaced folk, unable to gain an 'official tenancy and unwilling to leave the district, set up small-holdings on patches of hillside in out-of-the-way places. Isolated squatter holdings sprung up in Corgarff, Carvieside, on Deskryside, the forest of Bunzeach, on Nochtyside, and the Deochry. (picture 2) The squatters were often tolerated by the lairds for the cheap seasonal labour they provided to the tenants of the estate. Some holdings were situated on areas of former common land (incorporated into local estates under ‘the Enclosure Acts’ of the late 17th century) but where the legal ownership was still in dispute between neighbouring lairds, and they could not be removed. These folk on the fringes of society frequently became the stuff of legend. On Deskryside squatter smallholdings sprang up on Forebridge Hill, above the Moss of Moal Charrac, named Killicrankie, Little Dundee and Claverhouse, perhaps reflecting an interest in the Jacobite period of history by the Laird of Newe.

At the head of Glen Nochty, beyond Aldahuie, ‘Lucky Thane' lived at Duffdefiance. Evicted from Glenbuchat for illegal distilling, she continued her livelihood out with the Estate's boundaries, in defiance of Lord Fife (family name- Duff) and the excise-men. She had a ready market for her produce from the many thirsty travellers passing her door, crossing the hills between Strathdon and Glenlivet by the Ladder Road. At the Deochry, a valuation for Newe Estate in 1905 included a Jonathan MacDonald living at Merryhillock - ‘an old thatched house’, John McDougall living In a stone built dwelling with a ‘bit of land - no lease and Flora McHardy living in a ‘old poor thatched house. Small bit of land - no lease’.

An estimate of the increase in cultivated land resulting from new holdings, farm enlargements improving leases and to a lesser extent, squatter activity, comes from 2 sets of figures for the extent of Glenbuchat's arable acreage in the mid-19th century. In 1843 the Reverend Robert Scott, minister of the parish for the previous 34 years, stated that the arable land extended to around 970 acres. By 1864 when a land survey was carried out and a detailed estate plan drawn up, the arable land was calculated to be 1823 acres. (If the Rev Scott’s estimate was reasonably accurate. And he was reporting in Scots acres – 1.26 times larger than an English acre, this gave an incredible 33% increase in cultivated land in approximately 20 years!) The drive for improved agriculture on the mixed farming and sporting interests of the estates of the area and the redistribution of the old lands of the clachans did not result in, as would be expected. a small number of large farms, but instead. In numerous small farms and crofts being created (picture 3).The minister of Glenbuchat stated in 1843:

‘The general size of our forms is about 40 - 50 acres arable land, but a large extent of pasture land is generally attached to a farm.’ ‘We have several crofts about four and six acres – and we find that the system of having a gradation in the size of farms, works very well. We have no class of persons in our parish who subsist entirely by day (agricultural) labour, and have no crofts’

A yearning for the independence of working one's own place (using cheap family labour) meant that the demand for small farms and crafts was high. Lairds could generally extract more rent per acre from a smallholding than for a large farm. (Also granting shorter leases than the normal 19 years, so that the rent could be revised or the tenant changed more frequently.) The minister of Strathdon reported in 1839:
‘It unfortunately happens, such is the desire to posses a farm, arising perhaps from local attachment that whenever a place becomes vacant, an unwise competition takes place, which leads to the offer of higher rents than prudence can at all times justified "

An example of an appeal for a rent revision from a tenant in Glenbuchat comes from the Duff House papers:
‘Petition of John Hay in Tillychairch (Tullocharroch) Glenbucket 11th October 1819.

That at the last sett of tacks (leases) having been turned out of my croft as a subset (sub-tenant in Upperton) I was induced for the sake of my family to offer £6 St. (sterling) for the croft which I now occupy and which will scarcely sow two bolls of oats altogether I have built houses (farm buildings) and improved the place greatly, and at considerable expense. I am anxious to continue where I am and trust to your Lordship’s goodness to make the rent such as l can pay.’

A numerous, self-supporting tenantry, all with a stake in the land, was considered the best mix for the upland sporting estates of the area. It was often in the Lairds' financial interest to have a few large farms on the best land, with smaller farms and crofts on the more marginal ground, providing seasonal labour for the estate's sporting activities of grouse shooting and deer stalking, and for the large farms at busy times of the year such as harvest. The two components of agriculture and shooting interests happily co-existed for the most part. But for Glenbuchat at least, the laird was in no doubt about which was the more lucrative:‘On mixed Highland estates it is the rent of the grouse moors that builds the crofters houses, and if the landlord has to choose between the shooting tenant and the crofters the rent paid by the farmer would be by for the more profitable '.

In his report for the NSA of 1839 the minister of Strathdon summed up, in somewhat idyllic terms {the tenant‘s views were rarely recorded), the progress of improvements in his parish when compared with the time the OSA was written in the 1790s:

‘Few parishes have undergone a greater change within the last 40 years than Strathdon. The vast improvement of the country, by reclaiming and planting waste lands; the drainage and enclosure of fields and general introduction of the improved system of husbandry; the opening up of the strath by a turnpike road running through the center of the parish; and the formation of good cross-roads (minor roads), with stone bridges over the different streams; the elegant and commodious residences of the proprietors; and the comfortable slated dwelling-houses and substantial farm offices (steadings) of the tenantry, are some of the more obvious marks of the progress in cultivation.’

Lime had an important part to play in bringing about this ‘brave new world’ and there was a massive increase in demand for it at this time.

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Picture added on 06 August 2015 at 20:16
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